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New Social Security disability rule raises concerns

Disabled individuals suffering from disease such as lupus may soon encounter additional application-related challenges when applying for important Social Security disability benefits. Currently, 45 percent of disabled individuals obtain Social Security disability benefits when they first apply. In addition, the waiting period for a hearing, which is one of the steps in the appeals process, is 600 days on average. There are presently greater than 100 million individuals waiting for a hearing.

The backlog began approximately 10 years ago and is attributed to a greater number of individuals applying for disability benefits due to the recession. It is feared that the new rule may add to the backlog. The new rule removes the special consideration that was previously given to the applicant's long-term physician. Under the new rule, a treating physician would receive the same consideration as that given to a medical consultant that reviews the paper file and may have not examined the applicant or conducted a brief one-time examination of the applicant.

Unfortunately, the new rule could lead to more denials for disabled individuals with more complex diseases including lupus, multiple sclerosis or schizophrenia. A greater number of denials may also lead to a greater number of appeals which may increase wait times and the backlog. While many initial applications for Social Security disability benefits are denied, it is important for disabled individuals to understand the different appeals options available to them.

In addition to understanding appeals resources, it is important for disabled individuals and their families to be familiar with the complexities of the application process, how to address them and any changes to the application process. Understanding how to present a thorough initial application, and pursue the appeals process when needed, can help disabled individuals and families through the sometimes challenging journey that is applying for disability benefits.

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